All these will be given you besides …

In addition to the aforementioned band-aid remedies for accidie, the real remedy is to live a self-disciplined and self-giving life. Easier said than done, obviously. But Paget does a very good job of explaining how to get started, how to point yourself and start taking steps in that direction. A lot of it is just realizing how you are failing in that regard, and what you should be doing and thinking differently.

He says we should think of serving God as a venture that we undertake, one requiring self-discipline and effort which we need to put forth wholeheartedly, just as we might in some important worldly venture. As St. James says, a double-hearted [or half-hearted] man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:8.

To be wholehearted in serving God means (among other things, presumably),

… not to plan any other pleasures for ourselves, but to be willing that they should come to us when and as He wills, to be enjoyed as His gifts, with thankfulness to Him, with a heart that all along is quite free and ready for His work; to leave the ordinary well known ways in which we have seemed fairly sure, at all events, of being comfortable, if not happy; of having occasional pleasures, even though we may be getting to care for them less and less; to do without excitement, or praise, or luxury, or a margin of leisure; and to make up our minds that we will plan for no happiness outside God’s service, and that all that we enjoy shall be what freely comes, unplanned, from Him, as we go about the work that He has given us to do; — this is the real venture of faith; this needs some wholeheartedness of desire; this is what we find so hard.

Being completely wholehearted in serving God may not be attainable in this life, but Paget argues that it is largely within our reach to point our intentions in that direction:

[I]t may be hard to cast out the lingering love of worldly gratification, and to fasten all our affection upon the things of God; but unity of intention, singlemindedness in aim and purpose, — this is, God helping us, to a very great degree within our reach. We can be watchful to keep a pure and disinterested aim; to allow in our hearts no plan that we would not avow; to cast out, to make no terms with self-seeking. This we can do, by the grace of God; this in itself is much, and it leads on to more.

Another way he puts it is:  “It may be impossible at times to feel what one would:  it is not impossible to will what one should; and that, if the will be real and honest, is what matters most.”

I have realized some things since beginning to try to put these ideas into practice. First, one of the things that makes self-discipline difficult, is lack of imagination on our part. We may find it hard to cut back on food, say, or give up some leisure time in order to do something for someone else.  I think what makes it hard is that we can see only two things in our minds:  the thing we want, and its lack.  We imagine the thing (the food, the leisure time) making us happy, and we imagine the lack leaving us empty.

But there is a third possibility:  That God will make us happy in some way we don’t foresee.

I was struck by Paget’s phrase, “[W]e will plan for no happiness outside God’s service, and that all that we enjoy shall be what freely comes, unplanned, from Him, as we go about the work that He has given us to do …”.  I’ve become convinced that planning for our own enjoyment and happiness by doing what we want or feel like, does not result in more actual happiness than deferring to what our wife wants, or just doing our household chores.  When we do the latter, happiness and enjoyment still come but in ways we don’t expect or foresee, and are the more gratifying because we enjoy them as free gifts and with a clear conscience.

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One thought on “All these will be given you besides …

  1. Pingback: On penance, self-denial and heroism « Agellius's Blog

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